The Cornered Cat
Ordinary People

The training world has not done a very good job selling the need for training to regular people. Partly, it’s because of the tremendous success some early trainers had in convincing a small segment of the population that training would make you a real man, a warrior, a ninja, a tactical god, a James Bond, a soldier of fortune, a real operator, a Dirty Harry …. whatever. The fantasy-warrior thing sold very well to a reliable segment of the potential market, and that factor still drives a big part of the training industry. All you need to do is look at popular YouTube videos to see that.

Reality is more mundane, and doesn’t sell as well to the fantasy warrior crowd. The truth is that even excellent, professional training does not turn you into a hero. It simply prepares you to safely defend yourself in a wider variety of circumstances. And no, I am not talking about circumstances where you might need to jump out of a helicopter with a knife between your teeth and a gun in either hand as the audience cheers. As exciting as that sounds, reality is a bit more boring. I am talking about simple skills that can help save the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Want some examples?

One of my regular readers has often said that she has no interest in taking classes where students “roll around in the mud,” because she already did that years ago in military training. I agree with her that there is no need for regular people to go through military–type training. However, one of the most valuable and reasonable classes I ever took taught me how to safely shoot if I got knocked to the ground by an attacker. Can you think of any circumstances where a woman might need to defend herself while lying on her back?

Another person laughs about “pointshooting.” Pointshooting has a poor reputation in some circles, so I tend to avoid the word. But it simply means using a reliable, well-practiced alternative technique to aim the gun when you cannot easily align the sights. Criminal attacks do happen in broad daylight… but they also happen in dim parking lots, around cars where you might be blinded by headlights, and in homes after the residents have gone to bed and turned off every light switch in the house. Can you think of any other circumstances where a woman might want to protect herself even though the lighting situation is not ideal?

Every time I teach people how to shoot while peering around a solid object, I notice that some of the students have not really connected the dots. They probably suspect me of showing them something they don’t really need to know, or that they would only need to know if they shot in competitions. But a huge number of home invasions involve homeowners who are awakened by the sound of an intruder trying to get in. It is not lawful, nor is it safe, to shoot through a locked door when the criminal is not yet able to reach you. But it is not smart, nor is it safe, to stand in the open and wait for the door to fly open. The smart thing to do is to set up “behind cover,” choosing to wait for events in a place where you can aim at your opening door while most of your body is hidden behind something solid. Can you think of a time when an ordinary woman might want  to do that?

This lack of connecting the dots is not limited to so-called “advanced” skills, either. It sometimes goes down to the very basics. Thumbing through a gun magazine the other day, I came across an advertisement for a gadget. A gizmo. A weird piece of useless crap. A thing. Whatever. This whatchamacallit was basically a huge, oversized wrist brace you could attach to your handgun. Huh? Reading the ad copy carefully, I suddenly realized why that oddity had been invented.  It was because somebody would rather spend $67 on a stupid piece of useless garbage, instead of investing that same amount in a few hours of decent training. The ad copy included a reminder: “sights can be adjusted …” In other words, the thingadobby could help a poor shooter with sloppy wrist feel like they were getting somewhere, but it wouldn’t do a thing about the horrid flinch a person develops when they don’t know how to hold a gun. They were advertising a badly-designed hardware solution to a software problem. And the software problem was not even a complicated one. We are not talking about some esoteric, advanced technique accessible only to high-speed, low-drag Ninjas. Nope! This is a fundamental, foundational shooting skill: being able to hold the gun and hit your target. Can you think of a circumstance where a woman might need to hit her target?

A surprising number of otherwise-experienced shooters do not know how to smoothly load their own firearms, or what to do if the gun hiccups. Many have been in the habit of waiting for someone else to tell them what to do when there’s a problem. That is not ideal. Can you think of a time when a woman might need to load a gun herself, safely and rapidly? Or of a time when a gun fails to fire and she needs to get it running again right away?

None of these are unlikely scenarios. People who own firearms do need to know how to use those firearms, and they need to know how to use them in a wider variety of circumstances than most ever practice. That is why I celebrate people who understand that safe, effective training is not just a game for fantasy warriors. Instead, it is a valuable resource for ordinary people living ordinary lives.

9 Responses to Ordinary People

  1. Amy1970 says:

    I’ve had one “ladies’ first shots” course and my CCW course. I try to go to the range every 2-3 weeks. I also recently took a women’s self defense class through our police department and plan to take a “practical conceal carry” course through one of the shooting ranges in our area. I WANT more “real” training! I do dry-fire drills at home, and when I go to the range, I work on a few stances (point shooting, one handed, “weak” handed). None of the ranges I’ve gone to permit “draw” practice, so that’s one of my dry fire practice drills.

  2. says:

    Great post, Kathy.

    You’re right – the gun community has failed in this miserably. One concept we’re testing out: “gun lessons.” When you want to learn to play piano, you take piano lessons. Likewise with tennis lessons or any number of other skills. These all imply continuous learning. But when you want to learn about guns, you take a class. And then you’re done. It’s a failure of marketing, among other things.

    I’m actually a big fan of Constitutional Carry, meaning government-mandated training shouldn’t be required. We should all be responsible enough to know when we need training, and that our training should never end. But unfortunately, many people are just plain lazy – and if you don’t require them to do something (like wear a seatbelt), they just won’t. So I’m stuck: I don’t think the government should be involved in requiring things like CHP classes, but I don’t know how to convince people that they should WANT those classes… which takes us back to a failure in marketing.

    Anyway, just some rambling thoughts that I struggle with.

  3. Amy1970 says:

    You’re so right, Jeff!

    I’m new to firearms – I’ve always been very uncomfortable around them, and didn’t know much about them. Now, here I am, owning one!

    States (and school districts) require teachers to have continuous training throughout their career — and they’re not manipulating or carrying something that could take someone’s life (in a literal sense, anyway). It doesn’t make sense that people should think they can go get a gun, take one 3-hour course, or none at all, and that’s it: they know how to use it properly, always. No way!

    I still don’t feel comfortable with my gun and I’ve had it 7 months, and have had CC for 3 months, so I want more training. I want to be better with not only using it, carrying it, but also be more comfortable carrying it on me: I’m a newbie who’s afraid to have it totally cocked-and-loaded when I carry (it’s not ready to shoot, in other words). I first carried unloaded, then with ONE cartridge, now I’m up to 2 cartridges. Better than empty, but still. (Yeah, yeah, I know it won’t shoot all by itself!)

    And now you see why I want (and obviously need) more training!

    I don’t want the government mandating that I have to take more classes — it should be a natural, common sense thing that if you have something as serious and powerful as a gun, you should take the responsibility to learn how use it extremely well and know all you can about it.

  4. k9partnership says:

    Great blogs Kathy. You never know what circumstance will be upon you in the time of need. The more training you do involving different aspects will only be of benefit.

  5. Dann in Ohio says:

    Great points… as an instructor and avid shooter… I find more and more that the fundamentals are where I focus… good firearm control and operation… fundamental tactics… I’m too old for Ninja back-flips, but situational awareness… use of cover and concealment… are still solid tactics… building solid reloading and malfunction clearing skills… essential… and practice… I see too many folks who don’t practice very often or just run to the range for the first time in a year because they signed up for a class… good training without regular practice is worthless…

    Dann in Ohio

  6. LynneMinnesota says:

    Our self-defense handgun training business conducts class that qualifies students for application of their permit to carry in Minnesota. With the current popularity of gun issues many people have pursued taking classes so they can apply for a permit and promptly end their training at that point. Big mistake in our eyes. If you obtain your carry permit it’s your responsibility to keep yourself properly trained in a variety of shooting scenarios not only mentally but physically. We encourage our permit class students to begin this by crawling out of bed at 3 am in the dark-o-clock of the night and view your household from floor level, evaluating the lack of lighting conditions, and where you might go bump in the night. Being familiar with your house layout from this perspective (from your dog’s eye view) will allow you to be prepared for when you may have to do it if you hear an intrusion into your home in the middle of the night.

    Many are the start-up businesses who claim to train for gun permits. Several are using GroupOn to offer discounted classes. Trainers need to educate ordinary people that the permit is only the first step. Real life self-defense training (like the Cornered Cat course) needs to be considered the natural progression or next step. I wonder what percentage of permit holders get out and shoot on a regular basis vs placing the permit in their billfold or purse and calling it good to go?

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